Black Mountain and Asheville
Blue Ridge Campus
Lake Eden Campus
Guide to the Campuses
Architecture related publications
Walter Gropius and
Designs for a Lake Eden Campus, 1939
Photograph: Ezra Stoller © Esto.
Plan and additional images
Black Mountain College Newsletter, 4, March1939
In December 1937, Walter Gropius,
who had recently arrived in the United States from England, visited Black
Mountain College where his Bauhaus colleagues Josef Albers and Xanti
Schawinsky were teaching. At the time he was teaching architecture at
Harvard University. In 1938 he was appointed Chairman of Harvard's
Department of Architecture.
In January 1939, the college commissioned Gropius and his partner Marcel
Breuer to design a complex of buildings for the Lake Eden property. This
commission was the catalyst for an intensive series of community
discussions at the college about the relationship between the its
educational ideals and the the structures that would house the community.
Carefully considered lists were made of the needs for an ideal community
of 120 students engaged in an undergraduate liberal arts program.
At a time when most college's copied
such as Colonial, Gothic or Renaissance to give a sense of credibility to
their academic ideals, Black Mountain College decided that the buildings
in appearance and in structure should be modern to reflect its
The complex which Gropius and Breuer
designed would have been located around the
south side of Lake Eden and would have extended over the water. On the
opposite side of the lake faculty cottages and farm buildings were to be
Two influences from the Blue Ridge buildings were a central gathering
space with a large fireplace and individual student studies. In addition there were dormitory rooms, classrooms and workshops, a
dining hall and theater, and music facilities.
In the spring of 1939 the
college began a campaign to raise the first $75,000 of the estimated total
$500,000 required for construction. The model and plans
were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and a meeting at which both Gropius and Josef Albers spoke was held there in January 1940. A second
meeting was held in June.
By the summer of 1940 the college’s efforts to raise funds had been
unsuccessful. Blue Ridge had notified the college that it had another
tenant and that the college would have to vacate the buildings by June
1941. Faced with this deadline, it was clear that Black Mountain would either have to locate another
site which it could rent until the Gropius-Breuer buildings could be
constructed or move to the Lake Eden property in simpler buildings. The
sense of urgency was heightened by the impending involvement of the United
States in the European conflict and the anticipated restrictions on
building materials for non-military construction. In
the summer 1940, the college hired A. Lawrence Kocher, an American
architect and proponent of modern architecture, to design simpler buildings which could be constructed by faculty and
Photograph: Ezra Stoller © Esto.
the Gropius-Breuer plans been constructed, they would have provided the college with a coherent
and unified campus which would have reinforced and reflected the college’s
ideals. They would have been one of the first major architectural projects
by Gropius and Breuer in the United States. At the same time, preliminary
money-raising efforts had revealed that donors were unwilling to make
large contributions for a major architectural project unless the college
could promise the probability, if not the promise, of longevity and
stability. This would have required a restructuring of the college with a
Board of Trustees and a more conventional academic curriculum. This
ultimately would have negated the very ideals which the college hoped to
reinforce through its architecture.